Once or twice each riding season I like to visit Duluth, Minnesota and ride the wonderful bike trails that the state has been kind enough to prepare.    I should add that part of the reason for this particular trip to Duluth was to pick up a 1958 Carlton Flyer that had been given to me by a fellow who wanted his Carlton to go to a good home.  Now that is a really good story!

Each time I go to Thunder Bay's southern twin city to ride, I make a point out of visiting a certain bicycle shop that oozes vintage road bicycles.  A couple of Schwinn Paramounts perch precariously on the mezzanine that hugs the ceiling.  Several other vintage road racing bicycles share mezzanine space with the two American top of the line issues. These high end vintage bikes draw the eye as soon as one enters the store and, if one can believe what the owner says, all were used for racing at one time or another.  In fact, the owner of the bicycle shop might well have raced one or two of these beautiful old bicycles himself.

Once you get past looking at the mezzanine that holds the collection of vintage road bicycles, an old glass top cabinet catches the eye.  Looking through the scratched up to the point of being hazy glass, a cacophony of Campagnolo components peek out from under one another.  Derailleurs, rings, shifters, brake levers, seat posts and the like are all thrown in together in what appears to be a very hap-hazard fashion.  The rest of the store is less impressive from the vintage point of view, offering a fairly wide range of modern road, mountain and city bicycles for sale.  The walls are covered with small shelves, most of which contain something or other worth looking at.  All in all, a great place for a vintage bicycle nut like me to visit.  But the real adventure begins in the basement...

A wide and once elegant, but now rickety, stair case leads to the dingy basement.  The ceiling is low, the lighting is poor at best and the level of organization leaves something to be desired.  And that poor lighting is partially blocked by fifty or sixty bicycles, of all vintages and types, hanging from the main floor rafters.  The atmosphere is eerie and exciting.  Ali Baba's bicycle cave.  An old Motobecane shifts into view, only to be obscured immediately by a repainted early seventies Raleigh International.  The owner's wife's Vitus 979 frame set hangs by itself near a gorgeous tandem of some kind or other.  One neat old bicycle after another captures your attention, as you pick your way carefully through the maze of floor stuff, piling up to meet the jungle of hanging bicycles above.  It is neat!  This is vintage road bicycle hunting at its absolute best!

Then there are the frame sets, of which there were not all that many, but a few none-the-less.  I had not reached the frame sets before my riding partner called me over to look at what he thought might be a worth while find.

The long pointed and chromed head tube lugs caught my attention immediately.  Campagnolo drops!  Now that is a really good sign.  Chromed lugs, Campy drops and an interesting component or two made up this wonderful old frame set.  The paint was quite good, the chrome plating great but the quick release Italian art work was gone.  What kind of bicycle was it?  The head badge, though badly corroded, answered the question immediately.  Atala!  Further research would point towards Atala's top of the line offering of the time, the Record 101 Professional.

The tubing decal was gone.  In fact, nearly all of the Atala's art work had perished.  What must have been an aftermarket Campagnolo sticker remained on the seat post next to the clearly stamped serial number.  Below that, the ever common  Hand Made In Italy sticker announced the bicycles origins in part at least.  And the hand made claim was clearly emphasized by the file marks left by the hand maker.  The only remaining feature that made it possible to determine the bicycle's make was that dilapidated head badge that looked to have experienced some form of bicycle cancer. And the barely legible head badge read - Atala.

Once I had inspected the frame and forks carefully, I creaked my way back up the wide staircase to ask about the frame set's availability and value.  One of fellows working the shop that day said that he would have to ask the owner, who was not there on weekends.  Great and just my luck.  My riding partner and I would be back in Thunder Bay by weekend's end.  When I mentioned that, the young fellow offered to try and reach the owner by telephone.

The call was a success and the price for the Atala - $20.00 US.  Not bad and I handed over the twenty bucks before heading back into the basement to continue foraging through a cacophony of vintage stuff.  And it was a good thing that I did...

Searching through a pile of old handlebars, I stumbled across a set of old logo Cinelli track bars in perfect condition.  How they had weathered the storm of all the other components banging together is beyond me, but the set was perfect.  Clutched in my hand, the bars and I headed up the grand old staircase - again.  Rather than ask how much for the bars, I asked if they would throw the set in with the Atala frame.  No problem and my 1976 Marinoni Quebec had just inherited a gorgeous set of handlebars.

After finishing my search through Ali Baba's bicycle dungeon, I loaded the Atala into the Ranger that already held my Cannondale Tem Comp and my riding buddies Trek 1200.  Then it was up the hill, because that is about the only way to go in hilly Duluth, to pick up the Carlton and off to Thunder Bay.  I had lots to think about on that memorable trip.  Two really great bicycle finds waiting in the bed of the pick-up.  Which one to build up first?